Father's quest for his kids goes down in flames; advice (and sympathy) requested

This post is half rant and half request for advice. Sorry in advance for the length.

You may recall my past threads about my boyfriend “Greg” and the never-ending saga regarding his ex-wife “Susan” and their three sons. (Links to past threads below).

Nutshell version: Greg has been fighting for custody of his children (ages 10, 12, 14) for the past two years due to his ex-wife being a complete loser and subjecting the kids to constant chaos. Two years and $20,000 in legal fees later, Greg’s efforts have failed miserably, proving to me that no matter how much evidence a father has on his side, the family court system is seriously biased against fathers and will take the mother’s side 999 times out of 1,000.

Expanded version: Two years ago, Greg discovered that Susan’s new husband/stepfather of the three boys (“stepfather”) was arrested and charged with molesting a 13-year-old girl (the daughter of family friends). The evidence was damming, but Susan refused to believe her husband had done anything wrong. She insisted it was a big set-up, and that the victim’s family was out to get her, even to the point of extreme paranoia where she thought the family was stalking her, etc. She believed her husband had done nothing wrong, and stood by him even after he pleaded guilty and was sentenced to three years in prison.

During the time period between when stepfather was charged and when he was sent to prison, Greg took legal action to protect his sons and to ensure they were not living under the same roof as a child molester (because stepfather was free on bond pending trial). In essence, he was seeking custody. A judge briefly ordered the stepfather to move out of the home, but 2 months later allowed him to move back in. Finally, stepfather went to prison. Susan all the while believed in his innocence.

Greg proceeded with his custody fight. The kids were not doing well with Susan. Susan was now a single mother with 6 kids (Greg’s 3 kids plus 3 other kids with stepfather). Susan has never worked outside of the home and had no source of income other than Greg’s child support. She lived like a nomad, moving here and there with different people who would take her in. She even abruptly moved the kids from California to the East Coast to live with her husband’s family while he was in prison. After 5 months, she moved back to CA. The kids were showing major signs of stress and depression and were doing very poorly in school.

In December 2009, the court assigned a family therapist to do a custody evaluation. It took over 10 months for this report to be completed. During this time, the therapist did home visits and interviews with Susan, Greg and the kids. In my opinion, this “evaluation” took about 8 months longer to complete than it should have. Anyway, the report was released in October 2010 and it was very negative for Greg. In essence, it said that the boys should remain with their mother, because they have lived with her for the majority of their lives and are very emotionally attached to her. Also, in interviews with the three boys, they all said that they had no desire to have any sort of a relationship with their father and did not want to see him ever again or even talk to him on the phone. This was a huge shock and surprise for Greg to hear, because he was completely unaware that the boys had any bad feelings towards him. It was very clear that this was brainwashing by the boys’ mother; a textbook case of parental alienation.

Another outcome of the therapist’s evaluation is that Susan finally realized her husband’s guilt. You see, as part of the therapist’s evaluation, documents concerning the stepfather’s criminal case were requested and made available to Greg and Susan. Susan finally read – in disgusting detail – what her husband had done. Up until now, her husband had hid the truth and the court evidence, from her. Now she finally got to see the testimony and evidence and finally realized that her husband was a child molester. She filed for divorce and cut off all contact with him. (She also subsequently learned that her husband also raped their 16-year-old foreign exchange student twice.) But these revelations are all for naught.

Even with Susan’s revelation that she was mistakenly defending a child molester for 2 years, with the damming recommendations in the therapist’s custody evaluation, Greg’s 2-year-long case is essentially dead in the water. According to his lawyer, all he can do now is essentially come to a meager “settlement” with Susan that will leave the kids with Susan and allow Greg with very limited visitation.

Today was the settlement conference hearing. Greg’s attorney basically gave Susan’s attorney a settlement offer and if she does not accept it, the judge will schedule it for trial. This is something Greg cannot afford. He is OUT OF MONEY. He has already spent about $20,000.

So he pretty much has to give up with his tail between his legs. But to add insult to injury, Susan is going to ask the court to have Greg pay all of her legal fees. This is at least $15,000 or more. THIS IS SALT IN AN ALREADY GAPING WOUND. Greg is already destroyed financially… this would essentially bankrupt him. His attorney says that legal fees are awarded solely on the “ability to pay.” In this case, Susan has no money. She has no job, no income. She is on welfare for her three youngest children. So even if Greg only made $1 versus Susan’s $0, he would still have to pay her legal fees. At least this is what we gather from what the attorney says.

Dopers, I come to you for any knowledge or advice on any part of my story, but in particular knowledge on the legal fee matter. Even though this case was drawn out for 2 years solely due to Susan’s refusal to acknowledge that her husband was a child molester, Greg will most likely have to pay her huge legal fees. This is frightening and infuriating. Many thanks to those who have read this post.

Postscript: Mere weeks after Susan filed for divorce from her husband, she had taken up with a new man, “Mark,” who within a month, had moved in with Susan and her 6 kids, they became engaged, and he filed for divorce from his wife. He is an unemployed high-school-dropout, who has been married twice before, with 3 children of his own. This is the type of Jerry Springer-esque white trash drama these poor kids have to live in. Meanwhile, the boys’ grades are falling, and the 14-year old who is in 9th grade just got a failing report card. He even failed PE. The future does not look very bright for these children, and there is nothing Greg can do about it.

Previous threads:

Discussion on the fairness of child support being used to support people other than the children

Update - Stepfather pleads to child molestation charges. Need advice.

If stepdad is convicted of child molestation: chances of father gaining custody?

Kids’ stepfather arrested for child molestation - what can their father do?

Child visitation advice needed: should you force kids to visit if they don’t want to?

I have no advice. But this story makes me sick to my stomach. I’m sorry that you, your boyfriend and his children are going through this. I desperately hope that things turn out OK for you guys in the end.

Thank you, your comment means a lot.

It’s so devastating. At the end of the day, these kids have a father who really really cares about them, but they will be stuck in an unhealthy home environment and lose out on any chance to be normal. They will be damaged for life.

Greg has spent every penny he has, and every penny he doesn’t have, to try to do what is right for his kids. And at the end, he is left with nothing. No relationship with the kids. Less visitation than he’s ever had. Broke, and having to pay off Susan’s legal bills.

People say, well when the boys are adults, they will be able to understand what happened, and realize how much their dad loves them. This is possible, but I can only be skeptical due to the success of Susan’s brainwashing and parental alienation. The quotes the kids said in the custody evaluation report were like a knife through the heart. Things like, “I wish Greg* would just leave us alone.” *They don’t even call him dad anymore, they call him by his name.

How does one ever get over a situation like this? These wounds will never heal, his heart is broken forever, and he is left broke and alone. (Well he still has me, but still, he has lost his kids and has to watch helplessly as they grow up in a backwards dysfunctional home.)

Ugh, this is so utterly tragic. I’m so sorry. Those poor boys.

Poor Greg :frowning: That’s awful :frowning:

This is the saddest OP I’ve read in a long time. I’m sorry I have no advice to give but just wanted to offer what sympathies I can. A heartbreaking situation for everyone involved.

What an awful situation. You have my sympathy.

Just so I have this straight…I’ve only skimmed the other threads. Susan has 3 kids with Greg (1st husband), 3 kids with Child Molester (2nd husband) and now a new boyfriend has moved in with his own 3 kids? What sort of place are they living in that can comfortably house 11 people if her only income is child support for the three oldest? Or are the kids sleeping all stacked up in bunkbeds?

Vile. Beyond vile. These people are like animals. we used to have neighbors exactly like this, utterly dysfunctional - what makes them live this way? No thought as to what is right, what’s good for the kids, just living in utter chaos, people moving in and out, just horrid. (all I can think of, about the kids, is they get used to the chaos and brainwashing, it becomes their way of life. If they are offered order, security, follow-the-rules, ‘normal’ - it’s not what they know, or want - they are so screwed up. And that family therapist? Unspeakable. Not surprising, though, not at all.)

Like the other posters, I have sympathy for you, Birdgirl. I hope you and Greg find a way to cope with the uber stress. And poor kids living in that dysfunctional environment.

Honestly, they may very well grow up to see their father’s side of things. My parents went through a bitter divorce and I rarely saw my father, though he worked a lot. My mother would say a lot of bad things about him and he never said anything bad about her. My father would never come to my ‘games’ and such, though a lot of times I never asked him to. After college I started to avoid my mother a lot. I would see her sometimes, but it wasn’t very often, Christmas, and birthdays and here and there.

I get a long a lot better with my father now, though I am in my late 30s. I started to get a long a lot better with my mother in my later 20s even though she still said crap about my father. Then when my mother died I kind of regret not spending more time with her so I’ve tried to spend more time with dad, though he doesn’t always seem to want to.

Anyway, I would say it’s very possible that his kids will turn around in years to come so don’t stop tying now. Even if Greg doesn’t get to see his kids he should at least call them, send them cards and gifts and keep chugging along.

I’m sorry the two of you have to go through this and I hope things get better. I’m also not positive that he’ll have to pay her lawyer fees, I know I was threatened with that but never had to do it. I know how that goes though as I’ve spent $15,000 in the past seven months and don’t feel I have anything to show for it except for a busted marriage.

This story though is going to remind me to keep my journal going. I’ve been doing it for the last seven months and I thought I could slow down now, but I’ll keep it going for a long time then so it can’t come back and bite me on the ass later.

I just spent the last weekend with my long-estranged step-brother. His mom, much as I hate to speak ill of the dead, was a hateful, spiteful, manipulative harpy. She did everything in her power to poison my step-dad’s two children against him, and for the most part, succeeded. I never had the chance to get to know them, because their mother pretty much made it impossible for us to ever see them or communicate with them.

She died about 6 years ago in an accident, but there was still bad blood because of all her manipulations, and my dad had by that point pretty much given up on ever knowing his biological kids. It wasn’t until dad was diagnosed with terminal cancer, two years ago, and had an immediate very close call that my mom and I convinced him that we at least needed to let them know for medical reasons.

It was very difficult tracking them down, but we finally did, and I am pleased to say that both my step-brother and step-sister were able to spend some time with him before he passed, though I wish it could have been more. Since then, we are all trying to pull back together as family, and for my step-brother at least, it has been like a dream come true. He has always wanted the closeness that the rest of us siblings share, but had always been told he wasn’t welcome by his mother.

I know its a small comfort, but things really can turn around in adulthood.

Two words: media attention.

Keep up the support of your boyfriend. I respect you for sticking by him through all this.

Things like this make me so mad. I don’t normally believe in violence but if that woman were here right now, I would reconsider my stance.

I don’t know any more about this case than what’s in the OP, but to be honest, this is where I went, too.

I’m not sure the media will care, because stories of fucked up families and ridiculous family court rulings are common, but you just never know what story might catch fire, and what might elicit public sympathy and support.

It doesn’t cost much to call the papers and talk to a few reporters.

Honestly? The best thing in this situation would be if the mother dies in an accident. If she died, custody would revert to Greg. So I’m sure I’ll be hated for it, but I really hope the mother dies, quickly and cleanly. Greg gets kids, other kids go elsewhere, kids hopefully have a normal healthy life and Greg gets what he very much deserves.

So I have no words of wisdom. I do think you’re an incredible person for being with Greg, and Greg is unbelievably lucky to have you. You both just amaze and inspire me with your courage.

What a rotten situation.

Does Greg have any visitation now? Has he been seeing the boys? How do they act around him? Do they have any contact with other family members on Greg’s side – aunts, uncles, grandparents?

I know that kids can be manipulated and brainwashed, but if things are so much worse with mom than with dad, wouldn’t at least the 14-year-old speak up? It sounds like if the kids had spoken more favorably toward Greg, the outcome might have been different.

At least all the expense and legal wrangling has at least gotten the child molester out of the picture. That’s something!

That’s such a horrible situation. There isn’t much any of us can do except to tell you that we feel for you and Greg so that’s all that I will do.

Life for these kids may begin at 18. Once they’re old enough to decide where they want to live, I’d advise you to be encouraging of them to live with you. America’s children are increasingly living at home until longer than the past generation or two. This is considered normal due to the high cost of college, low employment opportunities, and the wealthier parents who can afford to support them past age 18. You, and Greg, would have a couple years of opportunity to help them prepare for life. If it works ok for the eldest, the younger may follow sooner(some states allow children to choose where to live at 14 or 16) and have even more time in a more stable home.

As important as childhood development is, years 0-18 are less than a third of the average lifespan. Being a good influence in their lives isn’t over with this court’s decision, and it’s entirely possible they will choose to re-invent themselves at an older age. Facilitating that next step would be where I would focus.

The kids probably aren’t stupid. If they see their lifestyle and the one you and Greg have, they’re not going to rebel against comfort, stability, and security. Just keep getting the message out there that you’re open and eager to have them in your life and sooner or later the horse will drink.


This might be one of the best arguments for resurrecting the Equal Rights Amendment.